Novgorod to St. Petersburg, Russia and it’s manly cuisine

mens cuisine

     Men’s cuisine! Yes, yes, and yes! It’s about time people recognize that we men need our own cuisine! Thank you, Russia! Thank you! I had to benchpress 200kg at the door just to be let in, but when I tried to order a caesar salad and some artisan brie cheese, the bouncers threw me out.

     To go the approximately 300km from Novgorod to St. Petersburg I took a very nice, 400-ruble (US$6.20) train called “The Swallow”. I arrived in St. Petersburg at night on the main drag, Nevsky Prospekt—fun to say in Russian—and I was overwhelmed by the scene. It was as if on someone’s first visit to USA, they came over the border in small-town Arizona, visited Yuma, then went straight to the Las Vegas Strip on a Friday night. The jolt was severe. Nevsky Prospekt was jammed at 11pm. People everywhere. Foreign languages were overheard, which was never the case in Pskov and Novgorod, both sizable cities of 200,000 to 300,000 people. Just as I was getting my bearings, suddenly fireworks began shooting up from the middle of the street. St. Petersburg was telling me something.
     I had to walk by St. Isaac’s Cathedral to get to my Couchsurfing host, and in the square a parked car was blasting The Cure’s “Lovecats” while three guys danced on the street. What is going on in this town?!
belarus plate

     I only bought one thing at the flea market, a Belarus license plate for 150 rubles, about $2.40. (No, I don’t know what I am going to do with it, and I thought about that when I bought it, along with the realization I am going to be carrying around a Belarus license plate in my backpack for the foreseeable future.)
     The funny thing in this photo, if you don’t notice it, is that the bus stop’s information is three meters (ten feet) off the ground! How can anyone see what’s written on it? I’m tall and I could hardly make anything out. This isn’t uncommon either. St. Isaac’s Cathedral is in the background.

spb flea market

     The Udelnaya flea market was fun and well worth a visit, though I think any flea market is well worth a visit. I very rarely pass up a chance to go to a flea market. If I am in any town on a weekend, it is often my first question to the people at the tourist information office. The second is “What is the capital of South Dakota?” You’ve got to keep these people on their toes.
     I was looking for funny postcards to send to faithful readers of this blog (See? It’s all about you!) but didn’t find exactly what I wanted. If you are into old Soviet metal pins and aren’t picky about what kind they are, those things used to have value but you can almost buy them by the kilogram, supply is so high now.

scary pictures

     I put an open request on Couchsurfing for St. Petersburg and thankfully a professor named Galina offered to let me stay with her and her granddaughter, but the mosquitoes have been ferocious, plus it is hard to sleep when these pictures are above your bed. That said, the location can’t be beat, right downtown in the same building as the Vladimir Nabakov Museum.
     It can be entertaining to see who is on Couchsurfing, Going through the listings, one host started her introduction with, “I look beautiful, work hard, study with pleasure and have fun with passion. I am like weather. Never settled or calm. When I do not follow my instincts and trust only logic, I get in trouble.”
     What do I do with that information?

     It’s said that St. Petersburg is Russia’s most European city. It appears to be true, right down to the absence of screens on doors and windows. I have never understood this. Not having ice cubes or having a fondness or techno-pop, OK, these are personal preferences, but what’s with the European hostility to screens? The mosquitoes are feasting on me.
toilet bus

     I don’t know if this is ingenious or depressing, but this is a bus converted into a toilet on Peter and Paul Fortress, the main tourist site in St. Petersburg.

stubborn dough

     Stubborn dough! This is from an Uzbek/Japanese restaurant and shisha bar. I know, I know, this is all kinds of wrong, but I suddenly had a hankering for Uzbek food, stubborn dough and all. Stubborn dough can arguably be men’s cuisine, too.

spilled blood

     OK, OK, I guess I should have a couple of nice photos. This is the interior of the Cathedral of Our Savior of Spilled Blood.

novgorod cinema

     This is how I like my towns, with a cleanly designed, stand-alone cinema right in the middle of it. Novgorod.

novgorod beach

     Beach volleyball behind the Kremlin in Novgorod, the place to hang out on a warm afternoon. My well-tuned Volleyball Ear detected no professionals in the vicinity.

     Memory Lane: Last time in St. Petersburg I stayed in a hostel near Finland train station next to a prison. Prisoners would wave a cloth through a small window to try and communicate with family outside in the parking lot as they yelled, trying to be heard among the other people yelling. Good times!
you are hear

     I thought I was already their.

     As pleased as I am to be here, I detest the requirement to register within seven days of arriving in the country. Your hotel/hostel is obliged to help you do it. Even if you stay privately, they have to do it. The forms are painful, but it helps to remember that it’s travel pain, not working-in-the-coal-mines pain.
     To buy a train ticket, beforehand I usually have an English speaker write a note in Russian that I want a particular train, the class, a seat facing in the direction I am going and in the middle of the car, if possible.
     Why don’t you stay with me? You can follow along with RSS, subscribe to an email feed, see what’s cooking on Facebook, pray that I’ll say something worth remembering on Twitter and if you are really slumming it, there’s always Google+. (I’ll follow you back!)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


Novgorod to St. Petersburg, Russia and it’s manly cuisine — 4 Comments

  1. Dear Maniac

    I’ve been reading thoroughly through your blog posts, I have read most of them on this site now, mostly because they are brilliant and entertaining, also maybe a teeny bit because I am stuck on a drilling rig in the most boring place on earth, namely the Netherlands (you can edit these comments before posting them, right?). Having travelled (don’t you dare take the second ‘l’ out) for 4.5 years continuously until the end of 2011, I am sad that our paths never crossed. I actually travel in my own 4×4 (it’s way cheaper than you think, gives huge independence, forget nasty Asian bus rides, vermin taxi drivers, crappy tours and being forced to stay in nasty hotels. Plus you could pick up hitch-hikers though I never do as they are almost all criminally insane).

    Anyway, back on track, I have seen a lot of the Former USSR and would like to heartily recommend couchsurfing in Russia as probably the best in the world that I have experienced. I have spent many many months in Russia and maybe on three nights have paid for accommodation, and met some really wonderful people. I also recommend you to try to get out into the wilds as much as possible, though I know you are a bit of a wimp when it comes to the cold. Do you still have that fetching peppermint blue whale jacket?

    Also, Russians are terrified of the Caucasus and maintain that all Caucasians are gangsters if not engaged in terrorism, but it is actually one of the best parts of Russia. And Derbent has to be one of Western Asia’s best kept secrets. If you happen to be hospitalised and immobile for an extended period you could have a look at my site for some ideas.

    Schastlivo Puti!


  2. I was in Russia in 2011 and didn’t register until the first time I stayed in a hotel, which was at least two weeks into my stay. Noone cared. however, maybe that is why when I was exiting overland to Finland, the lady who had to stamp my passport asked quite a few questions, like “Do you only have a Bulgarian passport?” – “Yes” – “Are you sure you don’t also have a Romanian passport?” – (me thinking for a second) … “I am sure I don’t “…

    Buy your train tickets on the Russian railways website. You can see all available trains and you can choose any specific bed after you see a plan of the carriage. Platskart is the best option by far. The prices are the same as at the station and you can pay with foreign credit cards. Just ask a friend to help you if you don’t understand Russian. This is a lot easier than queueing at the station and talking to the ladies there, even if you speak Russian. At the bigger stations you can print your e-ticket from a machine or sometimes you can also “check in online” while you are buying the ticket so you just need to show up at the train with your passport and the provodnitsa will have a list with your name on it. Also, keep in mind that provodnitsas get very angry when you take a “shower” in the train toilet using Coca Cola bottles of hot water from the samovar. That was back in 2011,things might have changed. Although I doubt it…

  3. European aversion to screens also applies (at least in ex-Soviet states and Nordic countries) to an aversion to blinds, so that when you only have a few hours of darkness at night in June, you are woken up at 3 am by morning light….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *